Community Safety

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:22 pm on 21st February 2007.

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Photo of Tommy Sheridan Tommy Sheridan SG 3:22 pm, 21st February 2007

I thank Mr Martin for whatever clarification that offered. I argue that the only conscription that we should be considering for our country is conscription into full-time education so that we can give as many young people as possible the chance to realise the potential that every single one of them has. That means good employment potential—apprenticeships as well as education.

I want to touch on one aspect of antisocial behaviour in my limited time and I want to ask for the leadership from the minister that Mr Martin asked for. In 79 per cent of the acts of vandalism that were recorded in 2005-06, air-guns were used. In the same year, in 57 per cent of offences of minor assault, air-guns were used and in 75 per cent of offences of serious assault, air-guns were used. Since 1999, there have been 1,154 air-gun injuries and, tragically, three fatalities—two in Glasgow and one in Bathgate. A growing proportion of all offences involving firearms is related to air-guns. In 2004-5, 43 per cent of all firearms offences were related to air-guns and in 2005-06 that percentage rose to 58 per cent.

It is quite clear to me and, I argue, to the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland that the problem of air-guns has to be tackled in the context of our overall approach to antisocial behaviour. A couple of years ago many promises were made that the issue would be tackled, but unfortunately those promises have not been fulfilled.

Three weeks ago, System 3 published the results of an independent opinion poll of more than 1,000 Scots. The poll asked the people of Scotland whether they support or oppose a ban on the sale of air-guns in Scotland. Eighty-two per cent of Scottish people said that they support a ban. Only 8 per cent opposed it; the remainder were "don't knows". Significantly, in cities such as Glasgow, 93 per cent of people support a ban on air-guns. In the youngest and oldest age groups—18 to 25-year olds and over-65s—the proportion of people who support a ban is 85 per cent. Among the working class—the so-called D and E group—86 per cent support a ban.

I plead with the minister to be prepared to show leadership on the question and to say loud and clear that Parliament supports a ban on air-guns and that, if Westminster is not prepared to act, the Scottish Parliament will pass legislation banning their sale.